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Lancaster seeks to enact Proceeds of Crime Act over £900,000 cost of skip fire

Lancaster city council has said that it will be considering beginning criminal prosecution against A1 Supaskips after a fire broke out at the site last year. 

Fire at Supaskips site in Lancaster (Picture: Lancaster city council)

The fire began on 3 December at the site containing around 13,000 tonnes of commercial waste. Due to the size of the blaze and several buildings on site being structurally unsound, according to the fire services, it took almost three weeks to fully extinguish the blaze.

In a full council meeting taking place on 24 January, council leader Phillip Black said he provided a written answer to Councillor Sally Maddocks regarding the possibility of using the Proceeds of Crime Act to recoup its costs, as estimates place the final bill at £900,000.

The Proceeds of Crime Act enables the retrieval of unlawfully obtained property, the prevention of money laundering, the investigation of criminal benefits or unlawfully acquired assets, and the facilitation of international requests and orders pertaining to properties obtained through criminal activities, among other related purposes.

Costs

The decision to potentially enact the Proceeds of Crime Act comes after the council in December agreed to fund the demolition of outbuildings at the site to improve access for firefighters who were still tackling the blaze at the time. The council estimated that this could cost up to £262,000.

It also agreed that up £650,000 of emergency funding would be available from its reserved to clear the 13,000 tonnes of waste found at the site.

The council also stated it would still be seeking contributions from partners and the Government to “offset the cost to the council”.

The company which owned the site has since gone into administration.

Speaking at the time council leader Philip Black said: “This incident has already greatly affected local residents and businesses and the longer it continues, the greater the risk to those fighting the fire and the wider community.

“It is imperative that we do all we can to bring this incident to a conclusion and while the emergency services have done a brilliant job so far, the presence of the outbuildings has slowed progress.

“By demolishing these buildings, we will provide greater access to the scene and improve our chances of successfully managing the incident.”

Investigation

Supaskips is a skip hire company that went into administration in April 2022.

In November of the same year the Environment Agency announced it had withdrawn the waste permit for the site to protect the “environment from harm.”

Following this the Agency launched a full criminal investigation into the company that is still ongoing.

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